Botetourt, Va. (WFXR) — Local Author, Kenneth F. Conklin says there are many stories in this region of Virginia from the black community that have never been told but are screaming to get out. One of which is the story of Olympian boxer and Botetourt County native, Norvel Lee. 

Kenneth Conklin was first introduced to Norvel Lee in 2016 when he read the headline in the Fincastle Herald, “Botetourt native won the Olympic gold in the boxing ring.” Fascinated by unsung heroes, Conklin became curious. 

“My curiosity actually took me on a journey of a lifetime.”

Kenneth Conklin, Author of Norvel: An American Hero

A journey tracing Norvel’s very steps, visiting the people, both living and at rest who influenced his life. Conklin dedicated three years to researching Lee’s history, personal accounts, and built meaningful relationships in the process. Eight drafts later, Norvel: An American Hero, was published in February of 2020.

In Conklin’s book, readers will learn that while Norvel is known mostly for his boxing prowess, it isn’t the wins that defined his character… it’s the fight and obstacles he didn’t succumb to and steadfast determination in his pursuits.

Conklin traces Lee’s humble beginnings in a rustic, segregated Black community, and obstacles he endured such as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws, limited schooling opportunities, and a speech impediment. Norvel’s life path led to exceptional accomplishments in the larger world.
Among those accomplishments, earning Tuskegee Airmen Wings, fighting in WWII, becoming a member of the 1948 and 1952 U.S. Olympic boxing teams, and attending and making history at the 1952 Helsinki Games. Lee also had a successful appeal in a landmark civil rights case and dedicated the remainder of his years to educating and mentoring young people.

“People told me well that must’ve been so much work but I didn’t look at it as work, it was sheer pleasure.”

Kenneth Conklin, Author of Norvel: An American Hero

Conklin says writing the book Norvel: An American Hero is a process and a result that is still ongoing and very stimulating.

“It’s been a journey of a lifetime and it’s not over with yet. What has surprised me is that you know, you publish a book and then things come out of the woodwork and it just kind of keeps me going, the story isn’t over yet. The connections I made with the family, we’re all friends these days.”

Kenneth Conklin, Author of Norvel: An American Hero

Kenneth Conklin’s book Norvel: An American Hero can be found at the local bookstore, Book No Further, and other online retailers. Carrying Norvel: An American Hero! Let us know!